We’re not multiracial enough in schools

We’re not multiracial enough in schools
By Zan Azlee

Last week, my wife and I were called to our daughter, Athena’s, school by her teachers. They had something to report, they said. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind. Did she blow up the school toilet? Set the classroom on fire? Beat up another student?

My wife and I arrived at the school around noon for the appointment. We were ushered upstairs by two teachers to a small room. We sat down around a table and the two teachers looked at us. They took out a file. Great! My daughter is two years old and she already has a file.

“Athena is doing fine in school as far as her mid-year review is concern,” said the teacher.

“So she didn’t blow up the school toilet!” I sighed in relief. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

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Oh my (English) accent!

Oh my (English) accent!
By Zan Azlee

My first language is the English language. Sure, people can criticise me all they want if they think that being Malay, I have to speak to Bahasa Malaysia. I speak Bahasa Malaysia too. It’s just that the language isn’t the first language that I learned and I feel much more comfortable expressing myself in English.

It’s just the way I was brought up. My entire family speaks English, with just a smattering of Bahasa Malaysia and Cantonese here and there (and slightly less often, Bugis). But if you listen to the English that my family members speak, you will realise that it is entirely colloquial. But if you were Malaysian, you would immediately understand.

And, myself, being a writer and also involved in the broadcast media, language skills is something very important and crucial. So I honestly try my best to perfect my language skills in both the main mediums of English and Bahasa Malaysia. But, my personal preference is still English. I can’t help it.

And if you aren’t living under a shell, then you would know Malaysia seems to have an issue with the English language, both learning it and also condemning it. All around, it seems that Malaysians’ proficiency in the language is rapidly dropping. And the government is trying to do everything it can to improve the situation.

However, my gripe (it’s depressing that my weekly column has become a tirade of bitchiness complaints recently!) is more about the way English speakers in Malaysia choose to speak. Almost everywhere I go, I hear Malaysians speaking English in all kinds of accents, but never the Malaysian accent! The three favourites are American, British and Australian.

What is wrong with speaking English like a Malaysian? Does it make your language proficiency less… proficient? Well, I guess the reasoning is… ‘Forget the grammar and language proficiency. As long as I sound cool people will think I speak English well!’.

Look at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed. He speaks like a true blue Malay. In fact, comedians even imitate his accent whenever they want to sound Malay. But his English is excellent. Look at Datuk Seri Samy Vellu. He speaks like a true blue Indian-Malaysian. In fact, comedians even imitate his accent when they want to sound Indian-Malaysian. But his English is excellent… or wait a minute. That’s a bad example. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Don’t doubt the ‘lost at sea explanation’


Don’t doubt the ‘lost at sea explanation’
By Zan Azlee

As many would know, aside from writing my articles, I am also a broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker. Hence, a lot of my time is spent on film and television production shoots. I shoot alone as a solo-journalist and also with a crew whenever the treatment calls for it.

I have been in many different and sometimes unnatural and even dangerous situations when I am on my production shoots. I have been in quiet and serene environments such as in the jungle, small villages and air-conditioned studios where everything is nice and comfortable.

I have been in war and conflict areas whereby I have had to wear protective gear such as helmets and bullet-proof vests. I have even had to learn to shoot a gun (which I hated). I have been in huge protests, riots and demonstrations where people around me have been shot at, gassed, bludgeoned and even pelted with concrete slabs.

I have had experiences shooting on flat ground, on hilltops and mountains, on skyscrapers, underground, and even in the sky. But I have to admit, there was one situation in which I have to say was the most dangerous of all, and that was when I had to shoot on a boat at sea. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

How can an average Malaysian address the A-G report?

How can an average Malaysian address the A-G report?
By Zan Azlee

I’m just an average person living an average life. I work an average job and I make an average salary. I’m as average as the average Malaysian can be. That is why I feel so helpless after reading the 2012 Auditor-General’s report and knowing that there is nothing I can do it about it, just like many Malaysians out there.

Some of the highlights (among many) of the report include:

-       A RM303,813 travel claim by a Ministry of Communications and Culture senior officer to Geneva, Switzerland, which was worth RM50,000.
-       TM was overpaid by RM27.59 million for the MERS999 project.
-       The police lost equipment worth RM1.3 million, which included 44 firearms and 29 vehicles.
-       Khazanah Nasional Bhd mishandling RM3.05 million worth of paintings.
-       RM1.6 million spent on a K-Pop concert was declared by the Ministry of Youth and Sports as being paid by sponsors when it was really tax-payers’ money.

The annual Auditor-General’s report is always a very revealing document for the public. But history has shown that after reveal, nothing ever happens. This year, a tremendous amount of revelation happened and almost every single media (even the government controlled ones) are making noise.

But do you expect anything positive to happen now that all these revelations have been highlighted for all of Malaysia to see? The only thing I see happening is politicians going on the defensive and just denying everything that is in the report, or having an excuse for it (logical or illogical). [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Datuk Seri Draco in da house!


Datuk Seri Draco in da house!
By Zan Azlee

How well do we know our politicians in Malaysia? We know them well enough to know that they are populists when it comes to election period.

How many people remember when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, announced that the Sedition Act be abolished? It was before the elections. Then, when the elections were over, the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Ahmad Hamidi, stated that it should not be abolished.

And how many people remember when the Prime Minister said that the Internal Security Act would be abolished? It was before the elections. Then, when the elections were over, two days ago as a matter of fact, the Home Minister stated that there will be amendments made to the Crime Prevention Act.

Study the amendments carefully and you will notice (as many have) that the Crime Prevention Act will then become a new form of Internal Security Act. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Sabahans could be Earth’s saviours!


Sabahans could be Earth’s saviours
By Zan Azlee

The movement and collection of heat and carbon dioxide caused by pollution and global warming shows a worrying trend for countries near the equator. Satellite images show that it is heading towards the equator where most of the world’s forests are, and that includes Malaysia, and more specifically Sabah and Sarawak.

The reason why the forest areas are the places heat and carbon dioxide gathers is because only the forests have the natural ability to actually treat the problem. And what is more interesting, studies have shown that the areas where most of the world’s forests are, are also places that have the most numbers of languages spoken.

This study was made known to me yesterday, at the start of the 2013 Borneo Eco Film Festival in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, by speaker and festival organizer, Agnes Agama. I’m convinced the study, conducted by Terralingua.Org, is true seeing that the Amazon has so many different tribes and ethnicities and different languages.

And I am even more convinced when I see Sarawak and, more specifically, Sabah where there are also many different ethnicities and languages. It also seems totally logical without an ounce of coincidence that the responsibility of saving the earth falls on areas that have such wide biocultural diversity.

If you have ever been to Sabah, then you would know that the relationship amongst people of different races and religions is different than in Malaya. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

The opening up of Myanmar… on In Focus tonight on Astro AWANI!


The opening up of Myanmar
By Zan Azlee

Myanmar is a country close to my heart. It’s not because I have relatives there or that I’ve lived there before. In fact, it’s because I have failed in my attempts over the years to enter the country as a journalist.

The most recent failure was in early 2012. But this year, I finally made it into the country successfully. And I’m convinced that it is due to how the country’s military junta government has slowly started to open up to the world, allowing foreign journalists in and freeing up the media (relatively).

In fact, it isn’t just the foreign media that has been entering the country, an increase in foreign investments such as GLCs and SMEs have been on the rise due to the lifting of trade sanctions, with countries like South Korea, Japan and Malaysia leading the pack.

And with my trip into the country, it is clear that this has directly affected the economics of Myanmar in a positive way. The number of jobs is increasing and Yangon, although with buildings and people who look like they are from a time two decades ago, is bustling with activity.

Progress is progress and we have to acknowledge it no matter how slow or late it comes. But problems are problems and it will still exist, especially for a country that is now forced to have to adapt to a new world order fast if they want to survive.

The local workforce is still obscenely underpaid with normal blue collar workers earning an average of between 10,000 and 25,000 Kyat a month (RM36.40 to RM91.00), while local journalists are still very sceptical about the government’s approach to the media.

Aung San Su Kyi, who has been the symbol of human rights and democracy in Myanmar, has been freed from house arrest and is even now a member of parliament. But, in recent months, has kept quiet on issues that she would have made a fuss about back then.

During my trip, I meet lots of everyday Burmese (or Myanma) from journalists to factory workers, and even taxi drivers and cobblers, and they tell me about life in the country from their perspective.

So tune in to the last episode this season of In Focus this Tuesday, 24th September 2013, at 8:30pm on Astro AWANI.

*This entire episode of In Focus was shot on a smart phone.
[Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

One positive statement regarding Umno please

One positive statement regarding Umno please
By Zan Azlee

My colleague, Dzulfitri Yusop, a fellow journalist, asked me yesterday if I could make one positive statement about Umno or name one positive member of Umno.

I laughed. Too many people like to assume that I am anti-establishment just for the sake of being anti-establishment all of the time without being rational.

So I thought really hard to come up with a positive statement to show that I was not one of those ABU (Asalkan Bukan Umno, or Anything But Umno) people. We have to always keep an open mind, right?

Quite some time passed by and I still could not think of anything positive to say about the party aside from it being formed in my home state of Johor.

All jokes aside, I do know that Umno was formed with the best intentions in mind to help the Malays have political and authoritative powers in Malaya (and later Malaysia).

It was a party that was meant to protect the rights of the Malays and be a voice for them so that they will not be oppressed. Quite noble, I agree.

But the very fact that it was to protect a particular race makes it, in my opinion, totally unsuitable to be a political party because no one country consists of only one race. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Looks like Parameswara lost the election!


Looks like Parameswara lost the election!
By Zan Azlee

I have fallen into the trap. The trap of going on family vacations during public and school holidays. So is my luck now that I am married and with a daughter. And so, last weekend, the long three-day Malaysia Day weekend, my wife, daughter and I decided to head down to Melaka, Malaysia’s historical and heritage city certified and endorsed by UNESCO.

It’s not much the holiday that I want to talk about. That was overall a fun and enjoyable time my family and I had. What I do want to talk about is a little bit more political. Any holiday to Melaka city needs a ride on the famous Melaka River Cruise. It’s a 45 minute boat ride up and down the Melaka River, which saw the glory days and also the downfall of Malay civilisation.

The boat ride was pretty good actually. But then, the audio commentary guide that played over the speakers on the boat explaining the ride was horrible! Being a UNESCO heritage city that is rich in history and culture that dates back centuries, I was really expecting to hear (and then imagine!) the different stories that is related to the Melaka River.

I wanted to hear grand stories of old Malay adventurers, Chinese explorers and Arab traders making their way to this great river mouth to the grandest East Asian city of the 14th century. I wanted to hear about the bloody and deadly battles that took place between the Dutch, Portuguese, British and Malays as they tried to conquer, colonise and defend this mighty empire.

I wanted to be serenaded by romantic stories about Parameswara, Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, and the beautiful Hang Li Po as the wind blew my long silky hair and sprays of water moisturised my face. But did I get that? Absolutely not! [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Cambodia’s urban poor children… on In Focus tonight on Astro AWANI!


Cambodia’s urban poor children
By Zan Azlee

Cambodia is most notoriously known for the 1970s violently oppressive Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot. In more recent times, it has seen quite a tremendous economic growth within the Southeast Asian region. However, one of the most jarring problems the country faces is the large disparity between the rich and the poor, and one can notice it most when it comes to the children.

In the early 1980s, a huge undocumented number of street children roamed the city and even rural centres trying to survive by either begging, collecting garbage or doing odd jobs. This was mainly blamed on the Khmer Rouge’s deadly tactics of killing enemies of the states, thus living many children guardian-less.

In 2013, a huge undocumented number of street children still roam the city and even rural areas trying to survive doing the exact same things. The difference is, these children have parents and families. They do it to support their poverty-stricken families.

To find out more about Cambodia’s urban poor children, tune in to ‘In Focus’ tonight, Tuesday (17th September 2013), at 8:30pm.

*Catch the new season of In Focus every Tuesdays, 8:30pm, on Astro AWANI.

[Read/view the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Learn to swim if you don’t want to sink

Dear Assoc. Prof. Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. What the hell are you talking about?

Learn to swim if you don’t want to sink
By Zan Azlee

The Bumiputeras of Malaysia. The princes of the land. The race that has the ruling blood flowing through it’s veins. The rightful owner of Malaysia. Or so they say.

Before I continue, let me declare that although I know that the term Bumiputera also defines those of the indigenous ethnicities in Malaysia, I am specifically only refering to the Malays in this article.

Always behind and always needing help ever since the dawn of Malaysia, it cannot be denied the Malays are a very unique race indeed.

For the sake of harmony and equality, affirmative action was put in place in the state system so that the Malays could prosper along with the other races in Malaysia.

They were given all kinds of handouts such as land, property, university quotas, corporate quotas and even literally cash (as in the case of Bumiputera handouts).

The objective was to give an advantage to the lagging Malays so they could then compete on an equal level with the rest of Malaysia.

It’s like a handicap in the sport of golf. Someone who isn’t as good would have a higher handicap so he or she could compete on an equal footing with someone better and who have a lower handicap.

The objective of this affirmative action was to provide the Malays with the essential confidence and know-how to finally compete on equal footing.

Like in the sport of golf, the main objective of a player is to finally turn professional and not have a handicap at all. That is when you know you are at par with the best.

Now that the country is turning 50 years old, one would wonder how strange it is that this Bumiputera affirmative action plan is still in place. You mean after 50 years, the Malays still need a handicap?

I guess they have gotten accustomed to all the handouts that they are now spoilt and cannot survive without these handouts to help them along.

But what else is new in what I am saying? People have been harping on this matter for many years and still nothing is being done about it.

The Malays feel like they deserve the sky and the moon, while the other races in Malaysia feel neglected and bertrayed in their own country.

You would think that after 50 years have gone by, the Malays, or even Malaysia as a whole, would have progressed and moved on.

But no. The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has just declared that to take the place of the old affirmative action bible, he will announce new policies that aims to further help Bumiputeras. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Goodbye Tickle Lady, God bless you!

photo 5

Goodbye Tickle Lady, God bless you
By Zan Azlee

Last Monday I lost my grandmother to that deadly plague called death. It was my first real experience losing someone really close to me.

My other three grandparents died when I was very young and all I remember are bits and pieces of the funerals of my two grandfathers and nothing of my paternal grandmother.

So excuse me this week if my column turns out to be a little bit self-indulgent. But hey, every writer will end up writing about his or her grandmother at least once (it ain’t cliched, it’s sweet!).

My grandmother was the one who thought me how to speak Cantonese. Apparently, as I was told, I could actually speak it fluently when I was very young.

I can’t really remember if it’s true or not, but now, my conversations in Cantonese are just fodder for my friends and colleagues to secretly record and upload to Instagram so they can have a laugh!

Once, I even got angry and screamed at a bank teller for calling me ‘hakchai’ which actually means ‘customer’ because I had mistakenly thought it meant ‘dark kid’! I’m never going into that bank again!

For those of you who don’t get the joke, go ask a Chinese to explain it to you. Then be friends with him or her and help foster better race relations in a time when the country really needs it. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

What happened to Shabery Cheek?

What happened to Shabery Cheek?
By Zan Azlee

I’ve met Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek on countless occasions. Usually it’s to interview him, but there were times when we just had a drink or meal to chat.

I honestly think he’s a very nice person and many of the things he does in his capacity as a member of the cabinet and a politician have good intentions.

Okay, now that the disclaimer and the ‘cover all bases’ step has been taken, on to my criticism, or maybe a better word for it would be constructive suggestions.

Being the Minister of Communication and Multimedia (of which he has held the portfolio once before), I’m sure he is familiar with how the media and public perception works. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Tanda Putera – a fictionalised review


Tanda Putera – a fictionalised review
By Zan Azlee

Tanda Putera is a film that is hot on the lips of so many Malaysians. And so, as someone who writes for the Malaysian public, I feel obliged to write a review of it.

A film is a film, whether it is a non-fiction documentary, docudrama or even narrative fiction. And each genre has it’s methods and style.

A documentary, being non-fiction, would have to keep to the spirit of truth and honesty. It has to strive to be an exact representation of what really happened.

For a fiction film, as the word fiction would describe it, is something that is created and made up. Hence, truth and reality does not have be a tenet in a fiction film.

For a film like Tanda Putera, the lines are blurry. It is supposed to be based on a true story. But as the director Shuhaimi Baba stated, there were parts that were dramatised and fictionalised.

Fair enough. A film director working on a fictionalised story based on something that really happened reserves the right of creative licensing.

It is, after all, a subjective interpretation by the film director. And when it is a subjective interpretation, then there is no wrong in the film being biased or opinionated.

This happens a lot and is accepted by most audiences. Take for example films like Adman Salleh’s Paloh, Aziz M. Osman’s Leftenan Adnan, Liew Seng Tat’s Flower or even Oliver Stone’s JFK.

So, what’s the big deal, right? Well, the big deal happens when a society is not mature enough to see how art (no matter how bad or good it is) is just art. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Happy Merdeka! Even if it isn’t.


Happy Merdeka! Even if it isn’t.
By Zan Azlee

It’s that time of the year again when all of the media gears their content towards that one national theme – Merdeka Day. How cliched, but somehow necessary. And so I find myself obligated to write somethhing alng the lines of the Merdeka theme as well. But I’ll try to keep things as current and as relevant as possible.

What does merdeka really mean, anyway? It’s suppose to mean independence or freedom. And an independence country means a country that is sovereign. An independent country is also one that is not controlled by anyone and is free to do as it pleases depending on what is right or wrong. It is the freedom to make a choice.

So what does it mean when in an independent country where there is suppose to be freedom of choice, big brother makes that choice for the people? It means that there really is no independence.

Recently, the Penang state government decided that they would disallow the screening of the controversial film about the May 13th 1969 riots, Tanda Putera, in the state. Okay, fine! Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng clarifies by saying that they are just issuing a cautionary advisory against watching the film. Whatever lah. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Non-Muslims funded a mosque? Gasp! Happy Merdeka!


Non-Muslims funded a mosque? Gasp! Happy Merdeka!
By Zan Azlee

Malaysia has gone to the dogs. But that would be such a negative statement for a column that has the intentions of commerating this year’s Merdeka Day. So I’m going to try my best to end it in a positive note. First of all, we can agree that racial issues have become a trend in Malaysia. Every racial group has a problem with every other racial group.

Polarisation among the people seem to be at it’s highest peak. This is happening in schools, universities, the private working sector, and of course, the public sector. Religious conflict, although thankfully not violent, is also on the rise and taking centre stage in our media. So Malaysia is truly going to the dogs.

Now let me slightly digress to see if I can further make the point that I am trying to make. Every Malaysian is familiar with the National Mosque, or Masjid Negara, in Kuala Lumpur. Conceptualised a month before Merdeka, completed and opened in 1965, it is a symbol of how Malaysia was, and how Malaysia should be now and forever.

Designed and built by a Brit and two Malaysians (Howard Ashley, Hisham Albakri and Baharuddin Kassim), that in itself would already be unheard of now. What?!? They let a non-Muslim design a mosque?!? Astarghfirullah! [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

Who’s to blame when a minister acts out?


Who’s to blame when a minister acts out?
By Zan Azlee

When an elected minister or politician says or does something that doesn’t make sense or is not becoming of a leader, who is to blame? Many would say that the minister or politician would be to blame since he or she is the one saying or doing the action. But now how valid is that?

Think about it. How many ministers are there that are actually fresh faces? The answer is none. Even the first time ministers are actually relatively veteran politicians.

So every member of the public would know them, their demeanour, personality and how they would react in different situations. In fact, it’s much easier than that, to tell you the truth.

Most of them have sheep mentality and just do whatever a member of their particular party is supposed to do. No one really is allowed to think for themselves.

Party comes first. And you really will know what to expect already. So don’t pretend to be surprised when you see them do or say something shocking.

When the public votes for them, they already know who and what they are voting for. So, by this we can make a very simple deduction that it really is the fault of the voters. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

Tee does it again!


Tee does it again!
By Zan Azlee

I cherish every opportunity I get to discredit, counter, disprove, disagree and slam our great Associate Professor Dr. Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. And so I am thankful for every time the good doctor produces an article that reflects his thoughts and tickles my fancy, just like his most recent writing in Utusan Malaysia.

His recent column in the newspaper dated 16th August 2013 was actually on something that I would really not have any beef with. It wasn’t really hard-hitting or ground-breaking at all. The good doctor criticised Singapore’s former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew’s, latest book, One Man’s View of the World.

More specifically, he criticised Lee Kuan Yew’s criticism of Malaysia’s affirmative action for Malays, and that it is driving local talent away from the country. Although I do have a problem with affirmative action in this country (as I have stated many times in my many writings), I don’t have a problem with the good doctor’s rant about it. It’s his right to say so, anyway.

How does that saying go again? ‘I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’, right? I think it was said by someone named Voltaire. But when the good doctor starts harping on about going to war with another country, now that’s where I have to stop calling him the good doctor anymore. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]

The actual Malay dilemma


The actual Malay dilemma
By Zan Azlee

It seems that one of the big discussions amongst Malaysians at the moment is if we are actually getting too sensitive. This is because of the “offence” that we have been taking over all kinds of issues.

First of all, there was the Alvivi case where this idiotic Chinese couple took a picture of themselves eating bak kut teh which they spread online and offended the Malays in the country.

Then there was the case of a Malay woman making a video with her pet dogs which caused a stir and offended the Malays in the country.

After that, an owner of a private resort allowed a group of Buddhists to meditate in a room which was also allocated as a surau. And this offended the Malays in the country.

At a first glance, I can see the reason why many people are starting to think that Malaysians are actually getting too sensitive for their own good.

But at a second glance, I think I’m beginning to see a trend here. Can you see it? It seems like those who constantly get offended happen to be Malays. [Click to read the full article at The Malaysian Insider]

To criticise Islam is Islamic


Criticising Islam is Islamic
By Zan Azlee

So I’ve been threatened and warned to watch my back because I tend to question issues regarding Islam. And guess who are the ones threatening me? My fellow Muslims, of course! Apparently, only those with immense religious knowledge and high paper qualifications are allowed to delve deeper into the religion, and the rest of us should just shut up and listen.

I think I shall choose not to listen to these people because I strongly believe that they are wrong. Islam is pretty cool actually, and I don’t believe that it would preach such a thing. [Click to read the full article at English.AstroAwani.Com]


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